November 19, 2013

Squads earn NCAA berths at regionals

For the first time in its history, Chicago will send both the men’s and women’s squads to the DIII NCAA National Championship in the same year. At the Midwest Regional qualifier Saturday, the women took first and the men sixth. Both fields featured nearly 40 teams, with nine men’s teams and four women’s teams that are nationally ranked. The race featured a six-kilometer course for the ladies and an eight-kilometer run for the men at Saukie Golf Course in Rock Island, IL.

The women came into the race as the top dog of the Midwest region, and they upheld their golden reputation. The South Siders defeated their nearest challenger, UW–La Crosse, by 41 points. In addition, the Maroons placed all five of their point runners in the top 20 of a meet that featured over 280 competitors. The squad easily sealed the first of the two automatic bids to the national race.

Second-year Catherine Young took third overall in the race and came in first for the Maroons with her time of 21:41.0. 30 seconds later, fourth-year captain Michaela Whitelaw finished next at seventh overall. The rest of the group came in as a pack with fourth-year captain Elise Wummer leading the group at 22:17.3.

The men took a slightly more tumultuous path to nationals. Ranked sixth in the region coming in and 17th in the nation, the men finished exactly as predicted. Considering that the No. 1 and No. 2 in the country, North Central and Wash U, compete in the Midwest, the sixth-place finish was no easy task. The men finished with a total of 220 points, 77 points behind fifth place UW–La Crosse.  In the past, the cap on the Midwest kept the sixth best team in the region from qualifying for the National Championship. This year, the cap was lifted and the Maroons slid in to one of the 16 at-large selections.

“[Fourth-year captain Dan Povitsky] always expects us to be contributing to the team and he does not hesitate to make it known when we are not,” first-year Gareth Jones said. “I believe that the team before individual mentality that he tries to instill in all of us is why we are successful.”

With their team first and pack-running mentality as their focus, the Maroons finished as a group. Povitsky took 33rd overall with a time of 25:15.0. About 15 seconds later, fourth-year captain Sam Butler came in at 39th overall and second-year Michael Frasco finished 41st. The next three runners, including sixth-place Jones, finished within the following 30 seconds.

Last year, head coach Chris Hall was asked what his top goals were for the season.

“Every year we want the whole team to go to the national meet. Our goal is to qualify both the men’s and women’s teams for Nationals. We have never had both go in the same year, but we hope to change that,” he said.

While last year did not work out as planned, the Maroons will have to book twice as many tickets to Nationals as they have ever booked before. And while the Athletic Department’s budget might feel a slight pinch, the pinch will serve better as a reality-check that these two squads have made history for Chicago cross country.

The DIII National Championships begin at 12:30 p.m. EST on Saturday in Hanover, IN.